Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: January and February 2018


January was a great reading month for me.  I was able to read my way through some of the large stack of books I received for Christmas.  I love getting books as gifts.  I bought Neil Gaiman’s book, Norse Mythology last year for Spring Break.  I finally got around to reading it in January.  It was wonderfully informative and entertaining.  I have blogged about Bridge of Birds, Frogkisser, and Finding the Constellations. These were all stellar books.  I am a Nora Roberts fan so I especially enjoyed reading her new book.  I am reading Finding Your Why for work.  It is an interesting read.  We have been working to find our personal whys.  February was a slower reading month as you can see by the size of the stack.

These days I find out what both girls are reading from their Facebook posts.  The three of us are participating in the 52 Book Challenge 2018.

All of us here at Haus Reimund love reading and we wish you “Happy Reading, Too!”

Robin’s list

  • Hughart, Barry, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984
  • Nix, Garth. New York: Scholastic, 2017
  • Sarath, Patrice. The Unexpected Miss Bennett. New York: Berkley Books, 2011.
  • Thomas, Sherry. A Conspiracy in Belgravia. New York: Berkley Books, 2017.
  • Gaiman, Neil. Norse Mythology. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017
  • Roberts, Nora. Year One. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
  • Hambly, Barbara. Bride of the Rat God. New York: Del Rey, 1994.
  • Rey, H.A. Finding the Constellations, 2nd New York: Sandpiper, 2008.
  • Hanks, Tom. Uncommon Type. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.
  • Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. Finding Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2017.
  • Pilkey, Dav. The Adventures of Captain Underpants. New York: Scholastic, 1997.

Alexis’ list

  • Hughart, Barry, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984
  • Sarath, Patrice. The Unexpected Miss Bennett. New York: Berkley Books, 2011.
  • Mertz, Barbara. Temples, Tombs, & Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt. New York: William Morrow, 1984, 2007
  • Lucas, Dale. The Fifth Ward: First Watch. New York: Orbit, 2017.
  • Maaren, Kari. Weave a Circle Round. New York: TOR Books, 2017.
  • Telfer, Tori. Lady Killers: Deadly Women throughout History. New York: Harper Perennial, 2017.
  • VanderMeer, James. Johanes Cabal the Necromancer. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010.
  • VanderMeer, James. Annihilation: A Novel. New York: FSG Originals, 2014. (ebook)
  • Howard, Jonathan L. Johannes Cabal: The Feat Institute. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014.

Jim’s list

  • Nye, Bill and Gregory Mone. Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World. New York: Scholastic, 2017.
  • Carver, Jeffrey A. The Chaos Chronicles, Books 1-3 (Neptune Crossing, Strange Attractor, & Infinite Sea). NP: Starstream Publications, 2010 (nook book).

Sarah’s list

  • Meyer, Scott. Off to Be the Wizard. Seattle, WA: 47North, 2014. (ebook)
  • Meyer, Scott. Spell or High Water. Seattle, WA: 47North, 2014. (ebook)
  • Cooper, Susan. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2006.
  • Holt, Tom. New York: Orbit, 2012 (ebook)
  • Howe, Deborah and James. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010 (ebook). Originally published 1979.
  • Walker, Rysa. New York: Amazon Publishing, 2014.

Find the Constellations-2nd Edition

Tween Star Gazing Flyer for event on 2/23/18Rey, H.A. Find the Constellations, 2nd Edition. New York: Sandpiper, 2008.

This past Friday evening, I found myself at the Georgetown Public Library for a stargazing event for tweens.  “What are tweens?” my husband asked, when I described the event we were attending.  Referencing the library poster, I informed him that tweens were children 9-12.  I am so glad that the library is developing activities for this group of children.  I remember when my girls turned this age that there were so library/literacy things for them to do.  They are too old for story time, but too young for some of the events for adults and teenagers.

As advertised this event was to feature stargazing in the library parking lot by the Williamson County Astronomy Club.  My husband is a member.  His connection to the event is how I happened to be at the library on a Friday evening.  Alas, it had been a gloomy day it was an equally gloomy evening, the outside stargazing was scrubbed, but the program was scheduled and so Plan B was used.  The librarians already had the most important items for an evening for tweens, food (Probably a part of their Plan A)!  There were star-shaped rice crispy bars, asteroids (grapes) and flying saucers (pizza).  After food there were crafts.  I particularly liked the one with the rocket ship and straws.  There was also make a kaleidoscope station and make a constellation station using mini-marsh mellows and toothpicks. I wonder, if they found a book in their collection with these activities or if they found them on Pinterest?  All of them looked fun!

Realizing a few days before the event that anything outside would be scrubbed.  The Williamson County Astronomy Club moved to their Plan B. Several amateur astronomers brought their telescopes inside and set them up so the students could take a look at them and ask questions.  The club president provided a very interesting 30-minute presentation on basic astronomy, including: a bit about the different types of telescopes (there were 3 different ones on display), how telescopes work, things you might see with one, and a small bit on light pollution.  Only about 10-15 tweens attended, but all of them paid attention during the presentation part of the evening.  At the end, they had thoughtful and intelligent questions to ask the group of amateur astronomers.  One tween asked about who gets to name constellations, which brought a wonderful answer from the club president, “they were named a long, long time ago”.  This question and its response jogged loose the memory that I had this book in my collection, Finding the Constellations, 2nd Edition.

This book was written by H.A. Rey in 1954 and was updated in 2008.  I found it on a past vacation and wanted it, because H.A. Rey, the author of the Curious George series, wrote it.  I love his style of illustration.  I was also intrigued by its content.  It is a delightful explanation of the constellations and how to find them.  Here is a bit from the foreword.

Few people can tell one star from another.  Most of us can tell an oak from a maple or a jay from a woodpecker even though we don’t see woodpeckers often, but the stars, which we see any clear night, remain a mystery to us.

Yet it is not difficult to know them.  Simple shepherds, 5,000 years ago were familiar with the heavens; they knew the stars and constellations – and they could not even read or write – so why don’t you?

Its is good to know the stars, if only to enjoy better the wonderful sight of the starry sky.  But you simply must know them if you are interested in space travel.

I wish I had taken it with me on Friday.  I think it would have been a cool resource to share.  It was written for tweens.  It has plenty of basic astronomy information, but is written in a fun and chatty style.  You can learn about star magnitudes, their names, and where to find them in the constellations we see in our northern hemisphere night sky.  Did you know that there are only 15 stars of the 1st magnitude (brightest) in our northern skies?  If you remember that constellation names came from the distant past, you also might remember that some of them come from ancient myths.  He tells the stories of two of them, Andromeda and Orion.

The book contains some very practical help.  It has sky view charts for winter, summer, spring, and autumn stars.  It has some helpful hints for stargazing outdoors.  Although they aren’t constellations, he doesn’t neglect our solar systems planets.  Some of them are as bright in our night sky as a star.

Alas our skies are not as dark as they were for H.A. Rey, but there are still some wonderful sights to behold.  So find a clear night, drag out your comfy chair, or better yet a blanket, and look up.  You don’t need any fancy equipment to view our heavens.  I end this blog the way Mr. Rey ends his book: Happy stargazing!

Here are some interesting links for you.


FrogkisserNix, Garth. Frogkisser! New York: Scholastic, 2017.

This is the second book I received for the Christmas Book Flood on Christmas Eve.  I asked the daughter who gave it to me why she thought I’d like it.  First, she knows that I like Garth Nix.  Second, she read the acknowledgements in the back of the book.  Here is what the author wrote and what influenced her choice. He begins by acknowledging that all writers are influenced by the books they read.  Sometimes the influence is apparent and sometimes it is not.

With this book, I would like to particularly acknowledge the inspiration and positive influence that came from my youthful reading (and frequent rereading in later years) of the works of Lloyd Alexander, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Dianna Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, and T.H. White. There are many other writers who have influenced my work, of course, but I think for Frogkisser! these five deserve special mention.

Wow!  Some of my favorites!  I am going to have to look up Nicholas Stuart Gray.  The others are writers of stories about reluctant or unexpected heroes and heroines.  Thank you Sarah for this wonderful book!

This book, as it happens, is about a reluctant heroine.  A princess, who just wants to be left to read, study, and be a companion to the royal dogs.  Enter Princess Anya, second daughter, to the queen of Trallonia.  As the story opens, Trallonia has lost its queen and her consort.  The queen died first.  Anya’s father married Countess Yselde, an enthusiastic botanist, who cared not for children.  After a year, he passed away.  Countess Yselde married Duke Rikard.  While Countess Yselde could have been the evil step-mother, she is merely disinterested. Duke Rikard, on the other hand, is the evil step-parent of this story.  He is a sorcerer and he wants to be king.  As the story opens, Anya’s sister, Morven is nearly sixteen.  At sixteen, she will be old enough to wed and to begin her reign as queen.  Duke Rikard wants to prevent this from happening, after all he has grand ambitions, first Trallonia and then the world.

Duke Rikard makes a strategic error.  He turns Morven’s current beau, Prince Denholm, into a frog.  Had he waited a little while, Morven would have found another beau, she was notoriously fickle.  Anya, the more practical of the two, tells Morven to dry up her tears and kiss Frog Prince Denholm and turn him back.  He is after all her theoretical true love.  Unfortunately, Denholm has escaped through the window and into the moat.

Here is where Anya’s adventures begin.  She finds a frog, but Morven refuses to kiss the icky thing.  Anya, goes to her friend the librarian, Gotfried.  They discover that not only true love’s kiss will reverse this spell, but so will the Transmogrification Reversal Lip Balm and he just happens to have a small amount. Anya anoints her lips with the balm and kisses the frog that she thought was Prince Denholm. Oops!  Not Prince Denholm, but the prince of the month from last November.  It seems the Duke has been transforming all Morven’s suitors into frogs.  He was taking no chances!

After feeling Anya’s reversal of his spell, he is determined to send her halfway across the world to a very good school even though it is a perilous journey to get there.  At this point, Anya takes counsel with Tanitha, oldest and wisest of the Royal Dogs.  She is advised to go on a quest to find help to defeat the Duke.  Like all reluctant heroines, she cries, “Why me!”  She remembers that her real parents would want her to do the right thing.  Reluctantly, she leaves the dubious safety of her home.  With Ardent, the royal dog  who has a quest of his own, she begins her quest.

Her quest, like most, takes her all over the country side.  She is pursued by transmogrified weasels and other agents of the Duke’s.  She befriends, Shrub, a thief boy, who was turned into a newt.  She meets Merlin and the seven dwarves.  She meets Bert, leader of the Association of Responsible Robbers, who tells her about the All-Encompassing Bill of Rights and Wrongs.  All of them have a part to play in her quest.

You must read this book.  It is a hoot!  Will Anya be able to defeat Duke Rikard?  Will she be able to save Princess Morven?  Once saved will Morven restore the All-Encompassing Bill?  Will that restore the kingdom?  Can Anya make enough lip balm to change back all the people the Duke and his fellow sorcerers have turned into frogs and other animals?  Does she get chapped lips?  You must read this book.  It turns the fairy tale of the Frog Prince on its ear.


Dragons Love Tacos

DragonsTacosRubin, Adam.  Dragons Love Tacos. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri.  New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Here in Texas we are big taco lovers. According to the Texas Monthly, San Antonio is the Taco Capital of the World.  According to other sources, Austin is the Breakfast Taco Capital of the World.  We love all kinds of tacos, breakfast tacos, puffy tacos, fish tacos, vegetarian tacos.  Let’s face it, we Texans are crazy about tacos.  It might surprise you to learn that dragons love tacos, too.  It may be that their love of tacos exceeds that of even the most taco-loving Texan.

What do you love about tacos?  Is it the tortillas, flour or corn?  Is it one of the fillings?  This week I am making poblano and butternut squash tacos.  I hope they are good.  My mouth waters just thinking about them. Is it the sizzle of the pan, when meats and vegetables are getting caramelized?  Maybe you have a secret reason to love them.  Dragons are like Texans, they enjoy all kinds of tacos, big ones and little ones.  After reading this book, I am certain there that dragons love tacos down to the very last bite!

In this book, Robbie and his dog want some dragons for friends.  How do you get a dragon to be your friend?  You have a party, dragons love parties!  They like lots of things about parties like conversation, dancing, and laughter.  Make it a taco party and the dragons are sold and will flock to your do.  Robbie and dog invite all the dragons in their neighborhood to their party.  I wonder where the dragons live?  I haven’t seen one around here lately.

Robbie and Dog want to be good hosts so they make tacos, lots and lots of tacos. They make a boatload of tacos, you know you don’t want to run out. During their party preparations they learn dragons don’t like spicy salsa, not one little bit and for good reason. What do you think happens when a fire-breathing dragon encounters spicy salsa?  Something explosive happens!

This is a silly, funny book!  I chuckled all the way through to the end.  You will have to read it to see if the party was a success.  Did the dragons like the party?  Were there enough tacos?  Did Robbie and Dog bury all the spicy salsa in the back yard? Remember the trick to getting a dragon friend is tacos!

Last Stop on Market Street

LastStopDe La Peña, Matt.  Last Stop on Market Street. Illustrated by Christian Robinson.  New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015.

Many of the children’s books I featured in my blog are older books. I write about them, because I have wonderful memories associated with them.  When I pick up a book, I remember the first time I read it either to one of my daughters or to a group of children.  I have been lucky to have read many fine books over time.  I am delighted to add this new book to my collection.  Eventually, I will get to read it to special young person.

This is a very new book to me. I picked it up on a whim at this year’s Texas Book Festival. I am ever in pursuit of Caldecott and Newberry award winners.  Not only did it win these two awards, but it also won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.  I brought it home and placed it on my shelves for a future blog post.  Just after the first of the year, I bought myself a 2018: Desk Diary Literary Datebook from Barnes and Noble.  It is chock-a-block full of all sorts of literary bits and bobs.  A couple of weeks ago, I was looking it over for interesting facts and I found one about this book.  My diary informed me that on January 11, 2016 Matt De La Peña became the first Hispanic winner of the John Newberry Medal award. It was kismet!  It was a sign! This must be my next book blog.

Wonderful words and praiseworthy pictures come together for a charming story about CJ and his Nana.  I already have something in common with CJ.  He calls his grandmother, Nana and that what I called my grandmother and my girls called theirs. Every week after church, CJ goes with his Nana to help at the soup kitchen, which is near the last bus stop on Market Street.  He is young and restless.  Why do they have to walk to the bus stop in the rain? Why don’t they have a car? He has a few other laments.  For each question, his strong and sunny Nana has a calm and thoughtful answer.  She guides him to ideas and thoughts outside of himself.  A question about why they don’t have a car, brings this reply, “Boy, what do need a car for? We got a bus that breathes fire, and old Mr. Dennis, who always has a trick for you.” It took me a couple of readings and examination of the illustrations to find the reference to the bus that breathes fire.  It is an illusion to the fire-breathing dragon Christian Robinson has illustrated on the side of CJ and Nana’s bus.

This is a wonderful book about how we see things about us.  CJ, with Nana’s help, learns to hear and see the wonder of the world that surrounds them.  Whether you’ve ever ridden a bus with your Nana or not, this is a wonderful book.  Read it and remember all the times someone who loved you, helped you see the bigger picture.

The Dark Is Rising Sequence


  • Cooper, Susan. Over Sea, Under Stone. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1965.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Dark Is Rising. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1973.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Greenwitch. New York: Simon Pulse, 1974.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Grey King. New York: Simon Pulse, 1975.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Silver on the Tree.  New York: Simon Pulse, 1977.

Last year, I started out with a series based on Welsh mythology, the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. I love stories based on myths and legends. While I was writing about that series, I thought about this one.  The Dark Is Rising Sequence is based on Arthurian legends with some other mythologies in the mix.  It is a sweeping tale of the final struggle of the light against the dark. It is an exciting, well written, high fantasy series.  It appears on several best fantasy series lists. Once I decided to write about this sequence, I had to locate the books. Unfortunately they aren’t carried in my local Barnes and Noble.  I had to scour my Half Price Book store to find them.  I consider it well worth the effort. These are excellently crafted books that carry you away to another place and time.

Susan Cooper received a Newberry Honor Medal for the Dark Is Rising and the Newberry Award for The Grey King.  I couldn’t write this summary of the entire sequence without giving you some spoilers so stop here, if that is a problem for you. Please take my word for it this is a wonderful adventure.  I know I didn’t read this when I was young, because I started with The Dark Is Rising, which was published in 1973 when I was busy in college. I must have discovered it when my oldest daughter did and again when my youngest daughter did.  We all loved it.

In the first story, Over Sea, Under Stone, we are introduced to the story of the struggle between the light and the dark for control of the world.  Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew, ordinary, intrepid children, have their part to play in this struggle.  Theirs is the first quest.  During a trip to the Cornwall Coast, they are introduced to this struggle by their Great Uncle Merry.  They find an ancient map that leads to an important manuscript and to the grail.  These are crucial weapons for the Light’s fight against the dark.  They must find a hiding place that is over sea, and under stone.  How can they prevail when all their actions are scrutinized by agents of the dark?   Can these agents be outwitted?  There is intrigue, danger, and excitement in this book. Read along to see how they discern the clues needed to solve this puzzle.

We move on to the second book, The Dark Is Rising. This book provides the title for the entire series.  Here we meet Will Stanton, the last of the Old Ones.  Will is the seventh son, of a seventh son.  On his eleventh birthday, he discovers his special gifts and his great responsibilities (sounds a lot like Spiderman).  He  must learn from the mysterious Merriman Lyon all that it means to be an Old One.  What are his powers?  What are his gifts?  He learns about the final contest between the Light and the Dark.  His quest is to find the Six Magical Signs that will aid the Old Ones in the final battle.  Here is a book rich with myth, mystery, adventure, terror, and delight.  Does Will prevail? Who is the mysterious, Merriman Lyon?

After Will’s discovery of his heritage and of his quest, we move to book three of the sequence, The Greenwitch.  If you’ve read this far, you probably have figured out that both the Drew children and Will were successful in their quests.  It really isn’t spoiling the stories for you too much.  A lost of exciting things happen to these children in both books, making them excellent reads even if you know the outcome.  Susan Cooper can weave a spell around you.  In Greenwitch, Will and the Drew children meet.  Here we learn the prophecy which has guided them thus far and will do so through this book and the next.

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold;
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

Greenwitch opens with Simon, Jane, and Drew discovering that the grail they found in Cornwall was stolen from the British Museum.  They are at the museum looking at the display, which had held the lovely grail they had discovered during their Cornwall adventure.  The grail came with a manuscript.  While the children were able to retrieve the grail, they lost the accompanying manuscript to the sea.  With the help of their Great Uncle Merry, they travel back to Cornwall to see if the manuscript can be retrieved.  At this point, the trio of children becomes a quartet as Will Stanton joins them.  He has grown into his responsibilities as an Old One with training from Merriman Lyon, a.k.a. Great Uncle Merry. Again, agents of the dark are all around them.  Although this story has tasks for all of the company, it is quiet, thoughtful, Jane who turns the day.

The Grey King is a quest for aid in the battle between light and dark.  Will has been very ill.  His illness has robbed him of most of his knowledge of the Old Ones.  He is left with this riddle to guide him. Although he can’t remember, it is the riddle from the manuscript retrieved from the grasp of the Greenwitch in the previous book. In this book and the final one, this riddle guides his way.  To unravel the riddle and find all of his answers, he will have to find the translation for the last two mysterious lines.

On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
Must the youngest open the oldest hills
Through the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.
There fire shall fly from the raven boy,
And the silver eyes that see the wind,
And the Light shall have the harp of gold.

By the pleasant lake the Sleepers lie,
On Cadfan’s Way where the kestrels call;
Though grim from the Grey King shadows fall,
Yet singing the golden harp shall guide
To break their sleep and bid them ride.

When light from the lost land shall return,
Six Sleepers shall ride, six Signs shall burn,
And where the midsummer tree grows tall
By Pendragon’s sword the Dark shall fall.

Ymaent yr mynddoedd yn canu,
Ac y mae’r aglwyddes yn dod*.

In the Grey King, Will’s family sends him to their relatives in Wales to help him recover his strength. Little did he or his family realize that Wales was the next step in his journey. Here he meets the enigmatic, Bran.  Is Bran the son of the Pendragon?  He is curiously pale.  He has tawny eyes, like a bird.  At their first meeting Will names him as “the raven boy’ boy from the riddle. Although most everyone else doesn’t know about Will’s status as an Old One, Bran recognizes him immediately.  There is something curious about Bran aside from his pale coloring. He has a sort of quiet austerity.  Is that due to the nature of his upbringing or his parentage.  Will learns that King Arthur and his knights fought the previous great battle against the dark.  While they weren’t able to defeat the dark completely, they did diminish the dark’s power and postponed the final battle between the light and the dark. The time is coming soon for the final battle.  Will and Bran must work together to find the tools needed in the Light’s fight.  At every angle and with every tool that can be mustered, the Dark works seeks to foil their attempts. Finding the Golden Harp and waking the seeker is the quest that Will and Bran must complete.   Will Bran meet his father?  Are they successful? Do they find the harp and wake the sleepers? Who is Merriman Lyon, who appear mysteriously, when aid or guidance is needed in all of these books.

The conclusion to the sequence is Silver on the Tree.   In this book all the players from all the books are present and necessary to the conclusion.  Each had his/her part to play.  Simon, Jane, and Drew come to Wales for holiday.  They are joined by Great Uncle Merry and Will.  Here they meet Bran and his family and allies. To start the book, Will has been receiving messages from the Old Ones around the world that they are prepared for the final battle.  Is everything ready?  Are the weapons and resources gathered?  Are all the necessary players in place?  The last object of power must be found, a sword, which has been hidden away.  Arthur’s sword it what they seek.  Will they find it? Like all the other books, Will and his companions must travel through space and time to gather what is needed for the final battle.  Here is the epic conclusion to this wonderful series.

Susan Cooper

  1. She has always loved reading and writing.
  2. She lived near London and was not evacuated during the Blitz. Her experiences during that time color some of her stories.
  3. After graduating from Oxford, she wrote for the Sunday Times. Her boss was Ian Fleming.
  4. She wrote Over Sea, Under Stone in her spare time in order to win a cash prize. She didn’t win the prize, but she was bitten by the fantasy bug and in time went on to write the other four books in this sequence.
  5. She married an American widower and moved to the United States, where she still lives.
  6. She was awarded a Newberry Honor for The Dark Is Rising and the Newberry Award for The Grey King.
  7. She has been nominated for an Emmy award for the scripts she co-wrote with Actor Hume Cronyn.

If you want to read more about this author, here are some interesting sites to visit.

The mountains are singing, and the Lady comes.

National Short Story Day: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

MistletoeMurderJames, P.D. The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.

I offer this thin volume in celebration of National Short Story Day and of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  It contains four delicious short stories by  PD James, one of the world’s greatest mystery writers.  I bought this little goodie some time earlier this year and saved it to read after Thanksgiving and before Christmas.  It is the newest addition to my Christmas book collection.

All four of these stories have unexpected turnings and endings, a hallmark of James’ work.  All are tales of murder.  Two of the stories feature one of my favorite fictional detectives, Adam Dalgliesh.

The first story is “The Mistletoe Murders”.  In this story a young woman is unexpectedly invited to her grandmother’s house for the Christmas holidays.  Her mother was estranged from the family and this young woman is interested in meeting her relatives. As happens in a novel of another great dame of English crime literature, there is a body in the library.   Finding out who did it and why will keep you on the edge of your seat.

“A Very Commonplace Murder” comes next.  This was the creepiest of the four stories.  A distasteful, seedy clerk with a taste for pornography witnesses a murder.   Why doesn’t he report what he has seen?  This one will send more that one shiver down your spine.  I had to read the ending twice to find all the twists the author leaves one.

I was so surprised to learn, who actually murdered the victim in “The Boxdale Inheritance”!  I wonder, if Chief Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh was as well? His godfather, the Canon Hubert Boxdale, is to received a legacy of 50,000 pounds from his step grandmother, Allie Boxdale.  Before he feels he can accept this boon, he wants to know, if Allie murdered his grandfather. He feels that in his position, he cannot accept a tainted inheritance. At the time of the murder Allie was young and Hubert’s grandfather was old.  The marriage itself was a small scandal, although at age 4, young Hubert wasn’t aware of this fact.  She was acquitted of the murder, but the Canon felt he had to be certain before he accepted his legacy.

Finally, we have “The Twelve Clues of Christmas”.  Here is an early investigation from a newly promoted Sergeant Adam Dalgliesh. On his way to have Christmas with his Aunt Alice, he is flagged down by a man frantic to report a suicide at Harkerville Hall.  He asks Adam for a ride to the nearest telephone box. Is it a suicide or a murder? Sergeant Dalgliesh has the opportunity to do a bit of sleuthing before the local constabulary arrives.  The local constable dismmisses it as a suicide, but he puts in a call to the local CID to be complete and orderly.  Adam continues on his way to Aunt Alice’s cabin. He has only time to settle in with a drink by her fire, when his help is requested by Inspector Peck from the local CID.  They return to the Harkerville House.  It appears that it may not be a simple suicide. When asked by the Inspector what struck him about the situation, here is Adam’s reply.

A number of oddities, Sir.  If this were a detective story, you could call it “The Twelve Clues of Christmas.” It’s taken a little mental agility to get the number to twelve, but I thought it appropriate.

Here’s where the story gets its title and yes, there are twelve clues or questions to be answered.  Who did it?  You will have to read the story, it was quite interesting.

This was a fine little volume of stories filled with murder and mystery.  Each story is carefully plotted and written with grace and elegance.  PD James has the knack for capturing the complex and sometime unsettling aspects of human nature.  If you can find a time in this holiday season to brew a cup of tea, grab a cookie, and find a cozy corner to enjoy these stories.  These short stories will keep you entertained on the shortest day or the longest night or any time.